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Monday, July 18, 2011

Misopogon Talks About Harry Potter

So, not sure whether this is making the rounds or if I'm just really excited to see HP 7 and 1/2, but Mister Booze sent this blog to me about the possible annual tuition at Hogwarts and I thought, "Oh golly, isn't that cute." But the irrepressible Misopogon read this and decided that the author was an idiot and that the question of tuition at Hogwarts warranted about 5K words. This is his response. As always Miso digs deeper than anyone ever thought to go, and comes out with something entertaining, thoughtful, and brilliant.

Scottish Alamo: The Historical and Economic Realities of Harry Potter's World

By Misopogon

The link was interesting but not much thought put into this. Comparing costs for the wizarding world to Muggle equivalencies is as useless as trying to convert 11th century prices to today, i.e. you can do it with large sums but not day-to-day items. Who knows what a wizard must do to create a robe, and if the raw materials and labor are anything like what it takes for Disney to mass-produce a robe and pay a stiff licensing fee to the Rowling estate and jack up the price to Disney levels.

Education in Britain is a massive industry. The schools who charge ~$50,000 U.S. per year are the tippy-top of that industry, and can justify their costs by the exclusivity as well as the opportunity they provide to only a tiny, tiny segment of the population. Hogwarts is a Specialty School serving one community, and virtually everyone in that community must attend. It might be one thing if Hogwarts was a boarding school that takes only a few kids a year from the greater population (e.g. Juilliard) then returns them. Rather the school mostly services a profoundly insular community, indeed a major source of tension in that world is from the inclusion of a small minority of non-community members.

How Do You Pay for Hogwarts?

We don't actually know.

Consider: the Weasley family is known to be quite poor—this is made clear throughout the series. Yet at any given time they have as many as five children (Percy, Fred, George, Ron, Ginny) enrolled at the school. How is Mr. Weasley paying $250,000 a year on a federal agency salary? How would he even get the loan?

If costs were anything like what this blog suggested, you would have a majority of students (pretty much everyone we know except the Malfoys) going to school on loans. It is possible this is true. If so, being a Wizard essentially means living your life in general poverty while you pay off your education, and the whole system being built on a population kept in line by massive debt.

Perhaps the Ministry of Magic puts you on a plan if you come work for them, and this is why so many Hogwarts graduates will go work for the Ministry in some capacity after Hogwarts. The Ministry then is essentially financing the school by payments on the previous generation's debt. Maybe Tom Riddle, whom to Harry and friends is seen only as an evil guy who does evil for evil's sake, is really just the Wizarding World's Tea Party, vilifying Hogwarts and the Ministry as an enslaving debt cycle being put under greater strain by the influx of "aliens" (Muggle-borns). Furthermore if the Goblins are in turn backing the Ministry of Magic, it would explain why Gringott's is so damn wealthy.

But it's hard to believe wizards would accept such an arrangement. It's far more likely that Hogwarts is paid for out of a general fund controlled by the Ministry of Magic, so that attendance is free for those who qualify, but the whole wizarding economy is actually paying to support the school. Or maybe the school has such a massive endowment it can operate in the clear?

What’s Hogwarts’ Endowment?

Hogwarts is obviously funded only partially by straight-up tuition if at all—not once in the series is tuition mentioned. Given its age and integral value to the community, Hogwarts’ main source of annual revenue is most likely endowment.

The school traces its history back to around 1,000 A.D. This was during the troubled reign of Ethelred the Unready in England, and concurrent with a period of revitalized Danish raiding. The motivation for English-based wizards building a castle in the Scottish Highlands is suspect—this is long before the Anglo-Saxons ever thought of the Scots as being tributary to them. It seems likely that the legends of the four founders are grossly exaggerated, as are most stories from that time. Perhaps the wizards were four different schools, or four different communities, embodied into four mythical figures.

A likely founding scenario is that wizards had allied themselves to remnant Brythonic elements in previous centuries (the Druids were pretty much gone 400 years before), living their lives on the margins of Anglo-Saxon society, which before would have been quite accepting of a few magical elements. By the time of the school’s founding, however, that was pretty much settled. England was Christian. However, Ethelred around 999 used a momentary peace in the Danish attacks to march to Scotland and kill a lot of Celts. What Ethelred was after was money to pay the Danegeld. The wizard community (probably at about 100 individuals give or take based on population estimates from 1066) would have been too small by far to face a direct “witch hunt” from the crown, but it’s quite believable that they, along with other marginal groups, got caught up in the wash. We have this from the books:

"You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago - the precise date is uncertain - by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age. They built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution."
-- Professor Binns (CS)

The founding purpose is important because the wizarding world of the U.K. would eventually come to revolve around Hogwarts. If indeed the school was founded as a refuge from persecution, it’s 300 years early—the English purification movement was more of a late-1200s thing brought on by Edwardian Nationalism (and the fact that Edward owed the Jews a shit ton of money). Higher founding principles are even more dubious, as 960 to about 1035 were backsliding cultural times when building a school was the last thing on anybody’s mind. Building a castle, yes, but whatever they built of Hogwarts at that time (almost certainly out of wood) has not survived since the current edifice is a distinctly Norman-Plantagenet design.

If we do take the founding story at face value, we can envision Hogwarts as a combination refuge built in the immediate wake of Ethelred’s destruction of Cumbria, where wizards took up hermitage far from the influence of Anglo-Saxon armies, alarmist ecclesiasts, and marauding Vikings. Those who didn’t come live at the new outpost would have necessarily blended into the population, their genes popping up in subsequent generations of “muggle-borns.” This would give the wizarding world of Great Britain plenty of time to grow into a separatist population. However strong elements of English wizarding society in Southern England suggest a second population of wizards either remained, or perhaps more likely came over as invitees of the Norman invasion, establishing the Ministry of Magic in concert with the founding of Westminster as a Thames powerbase.

(It’s notable that this would be an ideal period for Durmstrang to be founded in Scandinavia, as this was a period of great prosperity for the region, when a Norwegian location would seem far enough away to train specially talented Vikings, but still pretty close to one of Europe’s strongest economic centers.)

Old institutions in England are almost universally well endowed. This is due to the substantial increase in land prices over many generations, and resulting wealth created by renting large estates. Some cities still pay into the coffers of lords who own that land. Hogwarts, however, does not have a lot of land it can profit from. The Scottish Highlands are not heavily populated, nor ever were, and it was the expressed intention of Hogwarts to not have Muggles living there. Therefore its endowment is likely based almost entirely on the donations of generations of wealthy alumni. Presumably there have been many, as any British-born wizard to ever get rich would have probably been an alumnus. Due to the smaller population of the wizarding community and the general limits of their earning power in a separated economy, this endowment is probably nowhere near Oxford or Cambridge, but within the wizarding world it would certainly be among the richest institutions in the world on assets alone.

The school is likely further funded by the Ministry of Magic, as this would explain how the Ministry justifies its strong influence over the school. Outrageous expenditure by the school is justified by its endowment, plus the fact that so much of the wizarding world's economy is based on Hogwarts.

Genetics of Wizarding

There is strong evidence that wizarding ability is a genetic trait, as most wizarding parents produce wizard offspring, probably linked to a single “activator” gene (the presence wizarding ability is represented as binary). This gene (W or w) is almost certainly recessive—it is extremely rare for two wizarding parents to produce a non-wizard child because in order to be able to use magic both parents must possess two recessive alleles, i.e. both wizarding parents are “ww.” The appearance of Muggle-born wizards and witches among the general population is caused by two carrier parents having a child who inherits both recessive genes. Three out of four children born from two carriers would be expected to be non-wizards, so it is quite likely in a low-reproductive society such as the modern U.K. for many Ww-Ww parents likely never knew how close they came to having a wizard in the family. Wizard and non-wizard parents will not produce wizarding children unless the Muggle parent carries the recessive gene and passes it on to the child.

Harry’s aunt Petunia Dursley (nee Evans) is a good case example. We know Petunia’s parents were both Ww because they were both Muggles and they produced a witch, Harry’s mother Lily. Petunia may be WW (33% chance), and thus no longer able to pass on the wizarding gene, or she may be Ww (67% chance), in which case she may be a carrier. If her husband is WW as we would suspect given the general rarity of the w allele in the general population (that he’s called the “worst sort of Muggle” does not seem to be dependent on genes), their son Dudley has a 50% shot at being a carrier but a 0% shot at being a wizard.

It is rare but not unheard of for two ww (wizarding) parents to produce a non-wizard, or “squib.” This could be due to a mutation in the child. However the fact that the wizarding community has a name for it suggests that the occurrence of squibs is far too frequent to be explained by normal mutation rates. It could mean—as some wizards have suggested—that the wizard gene is more prone to mutate, and this would suggest wizards are slowly dying out. A more likely explanation is that many squib cases are the result of infidelity on the part of the child’s mother with a Muggle. Understandably, this is hard to track as most families will not care to admit such a family secret. It also explains why having a squib child is a stigma among wizards.

Wizarding alleles are evidently present, though somewhat rare in general human population. This frequency is somewhat determinable by the frequency of Muggle-born wizards, though this is hard to determine because the overall population of Muggle-born children each year is possibly less than 100 (Hermione is one of three in her class at Hogwarts, along with Dean Thomas of Gryffindor, Penelope Clearwater), not nearly a large enough sample to provide any surety.

As w alleles are dispersed to the general human population through wizard/Muggle relationships, it is expected that the percent of the total human population exhibiting the wizard trait will shrink, likely an important impetus behind the pureblood movement among wizards. However with greater dispersal the frequency of Muggle-born children should be expected to rise. It is likely that both have happened over many generations, and that w alleles are in fact quite spread out through the Muggle population. This is evidenced by the fact that Hogwarts, a castle built when Britain’s population was not a 10th of what it is now, is able to support a similar number of students as originally specced, without having to turn British-born wizards away.

Many other genes are likely involved as well, but these traits will remain dormant unless the double-recessive activator gene is present. These other genes control various wizarding abilities and their relative strength, e.g. Harry Potter possesses his father’s natural ability to maneuver athletically on a flying broomstick. The strength of these abilities are not tied to the activator gene except for the binary dormant/presence that gene exhibits, e.g. Hermione Granger, daughter of two Muggles, is among the strongest charm-casters in the series, while pure-blood Draco Malfoy

It’s notable that if talents are indeed genetic like wizard ability in general, that this would strongly suggest that DNA is passed along with a soul shard when making a Horcrux: The presence of a Tom Riddle soul shard in Harry Potter gave Harry strong dueling and parselmouth talents that belonged to Riddle, suggesting the soul encased in Harry affected his genomic structure.

The prevalence of strong Danish & Saxon (blond hair, rather tall, light eyes) and Celtic features (red hair, fair skin, freckles) among pure-bloods like the Malfoys, Weasleys and Lovegoods suggests that the genetic characteristics of 10th and 11th century Northern Britain remain particularly strong in the wizarding community, though the darker complexions of James and Harry Potter, Snape, the Blacks, and numerous other characters show plenty of gene flow from the continent over the last millennium. Non-European diversity in the present school population is easily attributable to recent British internationalization during and after the Empire.

The extent of Muggle intermarriage over the years—Hagrid notes in The Chamber of Secrets that there isn’t a wizard alive who isn’t half-blood or less—is strongly supported by the prevalence of non-Wizarding family names even among famous pureblood families like Potter (maker of pottery), and Black (common medieval nickname given to person of dark complexion, though sometimes English variant of French “Blanc” meaning “white”). It’s quite possible however that wizards simply copied English naming conventions. Other notable non-Wizard family names among supposedly pure-blood characters are McGonagall (Scottish clan name, Filch (suspected thief), Lockhart (Midlands derivative of French “Loach,” or “Lochet,” meaning river-fisher; equivalent of English “Fisher”), Burbage (Anglo-Saxon place name meaning fort on the hill/ridge), Pomfrey (“frey” or serf of someone named “Pom,” an Italian name usually meaning someone from Naples), Trelawney (Cornish place name meaning free-town near the water), and Binns (Yorkish patronymic from once popular name Binne).

Many names like Slughorn, Umbridge, Sprout, Vector, Moody, Fenrir, and Lupin bear striking resemblance to personal characteristics or professions. This may be a sign of residual personality traits of ancestors, or even—not impossible given the medieval characteristics of such a small population—that in the wizarding world it is still common for people to be given a late-life attributed surname instead of a family name. Small evidence for this exists in that Tom Riddle’s name change to Lord Voldemort was generally accepted, the stigma of a “Muggle” surname for 2nd or 3rd-generation wizards could lead many to change their name, similar to how many 19th and early 20th century U.S. emigrants chose “Americanized” last names.

The alliterative names of the Hogwarts founders are almost certainly nicknames based on family sigils (a badly drawn heraldic Griffin could easily have become a lion, probably at the same time the house chose red and gold as its colors, in mimicry of the ruling Plantagenet house’s sigil), and are not totally uncharacteristic of nobility in their time, though they sound silly or contrived today.

Is Hogwarts a Private School?

Hogwarts is less a “private” school, and more one owned by the community as a trust, as evidenced by numerous examples in the books of the Ministry interfering in Hogwarts business. In one telling example from the 2nd book, a 12-member "Board of Governors" from the Ministry are coerced into removing Albus Dumbledore from the Headmaster chair when he can't stop the petrifying attacks on students/teachers/cats/ghosts. It is clear from the reference that the board is strongly affiliated with the Ministry, possibly even a Ministry department. In Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry demonstrates exactly how much control it has over the community’s sole secondary educational institution, inserting its own Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and curriculum, then extending their representative’s powers almost limitlessly–even placing her as headmaster of the school. Later, when the Death Eaters are in charge, the Ministry puts Snape in the headmaster’s chair and allows major laws to be broken (e.g. unforgivable curses practiced on students). A private school would have protections from govt. interference whereas Hogwarts does not.

And it makes sense that Hogwarts would be the Wizarding World's public institution, as it is the English Wizarding Community's greatest community asset. The school is huge, and the overwhelming majority of the adult characters are alumni. In the films Durmstrang and Beauxbatons are portrayed as single-gender institutions (suggesting they're private) but in the books it's pretty clear that they are the Eastern European* and French equivalents of Hogwarts.

Thus the schools are not so much private schools, but community-owned, virtually monopolistic institutions. Price is therefore not determined–as it is with comparable British Boarding Schools–by the maximal rate that wealthy parents will pay, but rather by what can be squeezed out of the community at large.

Let's look first at why we think Hogwarts is private. Most obviously, it looks and acts like a world class British private school. The lifestyle is based on English Boarding Schools, which are all private. It has a very select admissions process.

However we're applying some factors based on our modern market economy, whereas their economy is a sub-sector. The closest analogue is a school for nobility, ie one that accepts all students who are titled from birth. For admissions, it seems getting into Hogwarts doesn't have any tests or application process—they simply sense your ability and send you a letter by owl. It's not spoken of much, but it is stated that wizarding families—especially the more Muggle-born—have children ("squibs") who do not have the magical spark and must make their way in the Muggle world. Argus Filch is one such character. This is likely a primal fear for wizarding families, and a good reason that so many are willing to believe in the eugenic cause espoused by the Hitler figure of Voldemort. Anyway we meet plenty of kids who would not qualify academically for a prestigious school, e.g. Crabbe and Goyle. This all supports the description of Hogwarts as a specialty school servicing a single community, and where the community has no choice but to send their kids there.

How Many Wizards Are There

There is a major incongruence in the size of the school between what's claimed by Rowland and what can be clearly seen in the films. J.K. says there's about 1,000 students at Hogwarts (250 per house, ~35 per house per class). In the films it is more like 280-300 students, with 70-75 per house and 10-12 per class. This means each class would see 5 or 6 classmates of each gender, and this is supported as the only male members of Harry's class and house we meet are himself, Ron, Neville, Seamus and Dean ... 5 students. Hermione shared her dorm room with Parvati Patil, Fay Dunbar, Lavender Brown, and the unnamed ginger girl who was Lavender's best friend...5 students. These characters are referenced again and again during classes—either these dorm groups are pods within the house, or more likely they represent the entire class within their house.

Classes are often two houses together of the same age, and this too supports 280-300 students because that would mean class sizes of 20 (rather than 70 by J.K.'s figuring). The quidditch rosters also support smaller classes, since that would explain why there are opportunities for younger students to earn significant playing time. Harry may be an outstanding case, but it seems most quidditch players will be on the team for much of their scholastic careers. Draco Malfoy becomes a seeker as a 2nd year. Further evidencing this, when Harry comes to Hogwarts Ron's twin brothers are already experienced beaters despite being just a few years older than Harry & Ron. This would mean the twins made the team as the latest as 2nd years, when they were just 12 years old. Ron—not considered highly talented—made varsity in his 6th year. If the school was 1,000 strong, each house would have 250 kids from whom to build their rosters, and only 5% of the class would make the team, thus raising the level of competition dramatically and precluding all but the rarest 1st - 3rd years earning playing time (over what would be more than 70 potential players ages 16 or over). Thus I'm going to go with my estimate rather than Rowling's answer for this one, since it just makes way more sense for the story.

The size matters in figuring out the % of a population that are wizards. We can suppose that there isn't another wizarding school in England** (at one point during the Death Eaters’ reign attendance at Hogwarts becomes compulsory for all of-age wizards, yet Hogwarts was not in any way overflowing so if there was a competing school in England it was so small as to be basically insignificant). Since Harry's class is, according to Rowland and other sources, exactly contemporary with our class (Harry was born in late August, 1980), and because we know Hogwarts is the only school that services the U.K., we can look at the population figures of the U.K. and predict a % of population that are wizards. The UK census makes this easy: in 1991 (when Book 1 takes place) there were 5,487,098 full-time students 11 to 5 years old. By Harry's senior year in 1998, this population would exactly equivocate to that which would be in the schooling range that Hogwarts teaches. So 280 divided by 5.5 million equals 0.0051% of the population.

Now multiply that by any population to get an idea of how many wizards are produced by any given territory. For example, the United States in 1998 had a population of 275,854,000, suggesting a wizarding population between 14,000 and 15,000. In the United States there are at most 1 primary or secondary school per 1,000 kids (South Dakota) and at least 0.198 (Florida) per 1,000 kids, or 1 school for every 5,000 in population. That's with our 3-school system, and includes private schools. So ultimately what we're saying is to serve a community population of 15,000 individuals, you would have at maximum one or two secondary schools and three or four primary schools.

The U.K. with a 1998 population of 58,487,000 would have a total wizarding population of between 2,800 and 3,400. This population size is further supported by the dispersment of wizarding families: Only Hogsmeade is 100% magical; the rest like Godric's Hollow near Winchester, Tinworth in Cornwall, and Ottery St Catchpole in Devon, or Diagon Alley in Central London, have small communities of wizarding families who live beside muggles. Hogsmeade is so small that its economy can't even support enough stores to supply students with their necessary school goods (says Mrs. Weasley in Book 2), indeed Diagon Alley is portrayed as a market environment the week before school and otherwise generally pretty dead. This is further suggestive of a small and insular economy where the school serves as a primary economic driver, similar to how a castle and/or cathedral would dominate the economy of a medieval community (Hogwarts and the Ministry exhibit behaviors characteristic of both castles and cathedrals so it’s hard to say which is which).

These numbers aren’t at all perfect. For one, wizards seem to have a longer lifespan (Dumbledore was 115 or 116 when he died), so this might suppress the percent of the population under 19. However two wars within two decades (plus a third spoken of under Grindelwald concurrent with WWII), plus the increased risk of death in the magical world in general, probably keep the average life expectancy of wizards roughly in line with Muggles, with a more scattered curve of course. However it’s difficult to calculate how the percentage of humans who are wizards has changed over the centuries because intermarriage will have diffused wizarding alleles into the general population.

What’s the Wizarding Economy Like?

What happens to those who can’t pay their debts? We are constantly running into magical paupers. They are dirty, have torn and aged clothes, etc. Many, many wizards live in ramshackle lodgings of such old architecture as to suggest homebuilding is virtually unknown within the community. For a population equivalent to a small farming town, Knockturn Alley is surprisingly well populated by hoodlums and other folk living outside the law. Also 3,400 is a very small population to require such a massive and high-security jail as Azkaban Prison—I wonder exactly what percent of the English wizarding population was incarcerated there. All told it’s fair to say 15%—perhaps even as much as 30%—of adult wizards seem to living on the margins of respectable wizard society. How many of these people were at some point students at Hogwarts? From the series it’s suggested an overwhelming majority were, though many are probably drop-outs.

Note that the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams are the primary impetus for students to learn at Hogwarts, and success there will allow you to get a government job (eg Auror) or teaching position. For those who don’t pass, their economic future doesn’t seem to provide much in the way of opportunity unless, like Fred & George Weasley, they are able to start a small business. Knockturn Alley shows us many of those small businesses are probably pretty seedy. There’s just not a lot of opportunity in this economy.

Market Day

Noticeably absent from this economy is food production. Foods consumed by wizards are similar to those in the Muggle world with a few communal eccentricities (butterbeer instead of chocolate milk, pumpkin juice for orange juice, firewhiskey as a locally favored liqueur, plus their own magical sweets). The only farming we ever see is subsistence farming. We do see food provided magically (eg the flash appearance of feasts at Hogwarts meals) but we also come across cooks and kitchens regularly, which suggests magically served food might be magically prepared but that substance itself was harvested somehow. In Deathly Hollows the characters do go hungry, and Hermione mentions she can transfigure food from other food, but can’t turn something inedible into something edible. It’s thus supposed that the majority of wizard food is somehow purchased, presumably wholesale from muggles. Here we see a possible control as the Ministry of Magic and Gringott’s probably do a lot of money conversion. In fact it’s not hard to imagine that they use this as a form of control on their population: Wizarding jobs pay in a different currency, so families must struggle to get British pounds. Even if you live in a Muggle town like Godric’s Hollow, how do you pay your mortgage, unless you do so through the Ministry (unless you own the property). How do you buy anything from the local grocery store?

Plus there’s feeding Hogwarts. All told I would guess the Ministry is a major wholesaler of food goods, dealing directly with Muggle companies set up through their connection to the Prime Minister, and that the Wizards in turn will buy much of their foodstuffs from the Ministry. I would bet there’s a Department of Transfiguration or some such whose job it is to turn GFS wholesale grain into sellable magical products. The specialty products of the wizarding world could thus be privatizations of offbeat Transfigurations learned at the Ministry (eg a guy turning vegetable oil into butter may have created butterbeer). A small manufacturer of food goods like Bertie Botts would still need to purchase commodity goods through currency conversion, as their distributors would be paying in wizarding coinage though they’d still need to be buying sugar from Muggle producers.

Another possibility is that wizards do farm, but that the U.K. has transitioned to a near 100% service economy. Perhaps wizards in the Caribbean don’t have a Hogwarts–they learn from their parents what they need to grow cane and beats and sell their product to Bertie Botts.

We’re still talking about an economy that is severely deflated. This is likely a hidden impetus for endowment-based families like the Malfoys and Blacks (and those running the major institutions) to keep it so. The Muggle-born issue is raised in racial terms, but there is a strong economic side too: the more Muggle interaction (eg Hermione and her dentist parents), the more access the wizarding world will have to Muggle currency without having to go through the Ministry, thus subjecting the insular, centralized debt-based wizarding economy to inflation, devaluing the debt owed by virtually everyone to the Ministry, undermining the Ministry’s role as sole intermediary between the wizarding and Muggle worlds, and devaluing the wizarding currency in general.

How the Hell are You Still Talking?

In summary the total cost of Hogwarts, actually the whole wizarding economic system, is more 10th century than 21st, except that for the U.K. specifically it seems to be almost 100% service economics. A massive bureaucracy is maintained for the expressed purpose of keeping wizards from realizing the full value of their talents from the rest of the world. They are tasked with keeping both themselves and arbitrary elements (why are dragons and hippogriffs not for Muggle eyes but dolphins and bald eagles are a-okay?) separate from the Muggle world, but for ill-defined ends.

We don’t know if Hogwarts is funded by a massive debt system, or if it’s a totally public institution that’s funded by the Ministry and endowment. Probably the latter but it doesn’t matter–the wizarding world must support this behemoth of an institution and an even greater governmental behemoth. Their insular world is kept so because unless you were born a Malfoy your are destined to go to Hogwarts with the best case scenario a lower middle class position in a government agency. Even the Great Harry Potter who saves the world from its Hitler figure ends up a cop.

In other words being an adult wizard sucks.

What is this system protecting? Well, the very problem with the series—and really all children’s fantasy—is the illusion of central position. Just as kid fantasy is predicated on childhood self-centeredness, the world of Harry Potter is set up to protect one thing: the Hogwarts Experience. So long as the rest of the world is kept away, special 11-year-olds get to enter secret train platforms, meet dragons and centaurs and giant spiders, fight ghouls, discover hidden passages, and cast spells, experiencing childish wonder at each turn.

Dumbledore’s back story—one of the most redeeming parts of the later books and sadly absent from the final film—actually gives us a young, highly ambitious example of a wizard who seriously questioned the separatist, needlessly bureaucratic nature of wizarding society. It is Dumbledore, not the eponymous child, who is the true protagonist of the Harry Potter series. Dubmledore’s arc—from plans of wizard dominance over Muggles to establishing Hogwarts as his indefatigable power base—perfectly demonstrates his world’s competing values of wizard society and the medieval society it mimics: A. Power, or B. Institution

Ultimately the series roots for and settles on Institution. Ironically considering the author’s stated non-ecclesiastic predilections, the Millenial generation’s signature myth-epic is one long (and quite entertaining) tale of extreme order defeating extreme chaos.

Notes and Errata:

* Their champion Viktor Krum is obviously Bulgarian (Khan Krum is Bulgaria's most famous king—it would be like a British character named John Plantagenet), but I believe the school itself is in Russia. Other names mentioned in Goblet of Fire are of varied Slavic origin—characteristic of Russian mixing—and they are welcomed as "our friends from the North." It's suggested by their cold-weather costume and choice of a sailing vessel as official transportation that the school itself is in Scandinavia, probably Norway or Sweden ("Durmstrang" being a Germanic name).

However the remoteness of the school is not to be taken as a sign that Durmstrang is local, but that like Hogwarts it's important for the security of the Wizarding World that the school be situated far from population centers. It's strongly suggested by the terrain (hills, forests, and a deep private lake) and weather patterns (heavy snow beginning in late November), plus the travel time by train and difficulty of transportation to the Ministry for non-apparators that Hogwarts is nestled in the Scottish Highlands. Likewise, Durmstrang is probably somewhere in Norway off the Arctic Coast, carved out of no-man’s land and made habitable by magic, but meant to serve the population centers of Russia and Northeastern Europe.

That the Bulgarian Krum would attend Durmstrang is demonstrative of the small overall population of wizards, and the far reach of the institution. However it’s also quite likely that Southeastern Europe has its own school (Greece a likely spot) but that Durmstrang is a more renowned institution which recruited the star seeker. If so, it must be supported by a greater endowment and population than one closer to Krum, the most likely being German/Prussian/Russian.

** Except “charm school.” Education before Hogwarts is rarely spoken of, and I think there's a tendency to believe children are home-schooled in the wizarding world. However there is some evidence that wizards have interacted with each other. Malfoy's pre-existing friendship with Crabbe and Goyle could be explained by familial friendship (so the boys were probably playmates as young children, no doubt at Draco's family home where he established his dominance in their relationship). But then there's evidence of many other children having widespread social relationships beyond those you'd expect from parental or community circles, suggestive of some sort of formalized primary education being available.

There is a brief mention in the books of having attended "charm school" by a 1st year student, and charm school is referenced again in the 4th book. The reference is always lowercased, suggesting this is an elementary level of school for wizarding children. There may be more localized charm schools, but again you're running into a very low number of supportable primary schools. There may be only one or two in all of England. I wish we knew more about Harry's classmates before they came to Hogwarts.

It would make the most sense to me that there were two charm schools available, and that 75%+ of the students went to one of those, with the remainder coming from Muggle schools. Among Harry's class, Harry, Seamus (half-blood), and Muggle-born Hermione and Dean are known to have attended Muggle primary schools, while Ron, Lavender, Parvati, and Fay had some sort of magical primary education, either formally or at home. It can be supposed that had Harry's parents not been murdered he too would have attended a wizarding elementary school. This would support the separateness of the wizarding world, and also how so many of the kids knew each other before Hogwarts. I say two because Draco did not know Ron Weasley (but knew his family) but did have a history with Neville. Pansy Parkinson knew Neville before as well, and Pansy in turn knew Parvati. Most likely they all attended school together before.

References available upon request (but you have to be willing to discuss this first)

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